Negotiating children’s college costs during divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2023 | Divorce Law |

Now that you and your spouse pursue divorce, you clearly understand that your young children are your greatest concern. How will they cope? Will they adjust to new schedules and living arrangements?

While their emotional well-being remains a priority, their financial well-being also must get serious attention during the divorce process. For example, although higher education may be years away, you must take college expenses into account during divorce negotiations.

College costs continue to rise

Who will pay and what amount? You and your separated spouse must come to an agreement. But, first, you must understand the financial challenges ahead of you.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average total college cost — tuition, fees, room and board — for an in-state public four-year college in New York were $23,875 during the 2019-20 school year. Private school costs in the state were more than double that amount at $56,958.

In 10 years’ time, the annual cost for a public school college education in New York may conservatively approach $41,000.

Divorcing parents with young children may be stunned in reviewing these numbers. But they also should confront the college cost issue as long as they both agree on the importance of their child’s education.

Where to attend and how much each parent pays

Among the issues to address during divorce negotiations include:

  • The college or university: It is a realistic idea to have a definitive list of schools that would pass muster of both parents.
  • The amount each parent pays: Will the two of you split the college costs? Or will you consider paying amounts based on each parent’s income?
  • Outside financial assistance: College costs continue to increase, and many parents cannot afford to pay their children’s entire higher education expenses. It is a good idea to pursue financial aid, student loans and scholarships.
  • A college savings account: A 529 college savings plan is an important financial tool that parents may rely on to pay for college expenses. If you have not opened one, please consider doing so and make regular investments. Each parent may want to open such an account and administer it.

Take these discussions seriously. Each parent should continue to have a stake in their child’s future, and that includes paying for college.

Agree to agree on child’s education

During your divorce, you have agreed to disagree, thus parting ways. But regarding your child’s college education, you must agree to agree. It is a good idea to make discussions on college costs a part of your divorce negotiations.